Ultra Marathons vs. Marathons

Prior to moving to Virginia, all I really ran were shorter distances and focused on speed, but that changed when I found a new running partner.

I just completed my first 50k and now I am officially an ultra-marathoner. Over the years, I tossed around the idea of running an ultra and last year I signed up for two, but did not start either due to a couple of injuries.

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k was a definitely an eye opener. I kept asking myself, “What took so long,” only wishing I had started this journey sooner. Sure, I had done some hiking before, but never with a goal time and so many friends. Plus, setting a goal and beating it was a great feeling, too. I was unsure if cramps would take me out or not, or if I could actually go the distance. Bottom line, the ultra marathon experience was amazing, and I look forward to many more in the near future. However, the experience was very different than any marathon I have conquered.

I love the distance of the marathon and all of the support that’s provided by the crowds along the course. Most courses, at least the ones I have run, are typically paved. I also find that training for a marathon can be relatively easy compared to an ultra. I typically carry a handheld water bottle and run five-mile loops, this allows me to snack and refill at the same point when necessary.

My thoughts on both…

Aid Stations (official) In intervals w/waterSporadic
NutritionGels & Salt capsulesSmall buffet
Carry waterMaybe, use handheldYes, hydration pack
Crowd SupportAny point on the courseAid station & Exchange points
CourseTypically pavedAny path accessible
PaceGenerally fastest sustainable paceWalk breaks are essential
Distance26.2Anything beyond 26.2
RunnersGenerally keep to themselvesChatty and supportive
Finish lineBoth are great accomplishments & there’s always a line at the beer tent!


I am a fan of both types of races. I will keep doing the marathon, so I can keep chipping away at my PR. Ultras provide an opportunity to challenge me both physically and mentally.


2 thoughts on “Ultra Marathons vs. Marathons

  1. Great post Dewey…as you know, I’m starting to wander down that ultra path myself, someday I’m pretty sure I’ll take the plunge.

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